It is an Inca “ceremonial fortress” located two kilometers north of the city of Cuzco. Construction began during the Pachacútec government, in the 15th century; however, it was Huayna Cápac who gave it the final touch in the 16th century.
The “ceremonial fortress” of Sacsayhuamán is with its megalithic walls, the greatest architectural work carried out by the Incas during their heyday. From the fortress you can see a unique panoramic view of the surroundings, including the city of Cusco.
Sacsayhuaman Fortress is an archaeological group located to the north of the main square of Cusco, also to the north and to the neighborhood of Qollqanpata that through a street that is one block long, which connects the two. Sacsayhuaman is not that far from the city, it is only 1 km from the chapel of San Cristóbal.
It is located just 2 kilometers north of the city center via an asphalt road. Its altitude is 3600 meters above sea level.
Meaning of the name:
Sacsayhuaman is a compound Quechua word, which means satisfied Sacsay, and the one that Huamán is hawk. The falcon is a bird of prey that is most common in the Peruvian Andes, it was the protector of the Incas in the first place, Mank Qhapaj.
The construction of Sacsayhuaman Fortress, according to the information that can be extracted from ethnohistoric sources, would have been started during the reign of Inca Pachacúteq (between the 14th and 15th centuries), then continued during the government of Túpac Yupanqui and concluded with Huayna Capac (hard 7 years approximately), participating in this construction about 20,000 men. During these three generations, according to Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (Mestizo Chronicler), there were four illustrious builders who successively directed the work.
From the oldest to the most recent, these characters were: Apu Huallpa Rimachi, Inca Maricanchi, Acahauna Inca and Callacunchuy. These architects are responsible for the design of Sacsayhuamán, which according to many chroniclers, apart from the ceremonial and military function it fulfilled, also represented a head that, together with the complex of the city of Cusco, formed the figure of a puma.
Interesting facts about Sacsayhuaman Fortress
The head of the puma – According to the Andean worldview, important urban or religious centers harmonized urbanistically with their natural environment. Machu Picchu, for example, is shaped like a bird. According to various investigations, the city of Cusco, formerly had the shape of a puma. The Sacsayhuaman fortress would form the head of the feline while the Temple of the Sun or Coricancha, the genitals.
Demons and aliens? – In the archaeological complex there is a stone formation made up of large stones that are assembled together like a puzzle. The perfection of this and other constructions caused the amazement of the Spanish during the conquest. According to the chronicles, they attributed their creation to demons. Today, according to oral tradition, these buildings were the work of extraterrestrials.
Temple or fortress? – According to various chroniclers, Sacsayhuaman was built as a religious temple. In its main temple religious ceremonies were held in honor of the sun, the most important divinity of the Incas. In 1536, the site was the scene of an attack by the Incas rebels from Vilcabamba who sought to recover the city of Cusco. Fearing another possible attack, the Spanish destroyed much of the compound. Today, in the archaeological site the Inti Raymi (Sun Festival) is celebrated, staged in homage to the Inca ancestors.
The resistance and the martyr Cahuide – One of the most amazing constructions of the archaeological complex are the towers. One of these, known as Muyucmarca, was the scene of one of the most symbolic historical events during the Inca resistance. There, the Inca warrior Titu Cusi Huallpa (known as Cahuide), knowing that he had been defeated by the European conquerors, threw himself from the tower in order not to be taken prisoner by the victors. Currently this site is called the “Torre Cahuide”.
Underground road to Coricancha? – There is an unproven history in Sacsayhuaman. It is an underground tunnel or ‘chincana’, which connects the immense fortress with the Temple of the Sun or Coricancha. There is really no hard evidence to corroborate the rumors. On the site there are 2 of these caves underground. The first is narrow, small and is allowed access to visitors. The second, the ‘chincana’ that supposedly connects with the Coricancha, is longer but is prohibited to the public. According to various stories, the people who ventured inside never returned.
Inca slides? – Among the many tourist attractions within Sacsayhuaman there are towers, enclosures, bastions, gates and even Inca thrones. However, one of the most popular spaces, without a doubt, are the Inca slides or slides. This natural rock formation is currently used by travelers to slide like a swing. The role it had for the Incas is uncertain.
Qenqo, Tambomachay and Puca Pucara – Near the site are the archaeological ruins of Qenqo, Tambomachay and Puca Pucara. All these enclosures are known as the Archaeological Park of Sacsayhuaman. The entrance to these four tourist attractions is included in the Cusco Tourist Ticket. The Tour to this complex covers these sites in addition to the Coricancha, the Plaza de Armas and the Cristo Blanco, from where all the beauty of the ‘Imperial City’ can be appreciated.
What to see in Sacsayhuaman Fortress?
Sacsayhuaman offers an amazing view of Cusco. You can see the summits of Ausangate, Pachatusán and Cinca. These peaks were considered sacred to the Incas. The archaeological complex itself has very amazing places, some of them with their own history and meaning.
The towers are located on the zigzag walls. They are called Muyucmarca, Paucamarca and Sallaqmarca. It is known that in this place there was abundant water. Even now we can see the aqueducts.
Also known as ‘La torre de Cahuide’. It is a huge building (today only the base remains) with an important historical value. It is known that the Inca general Titu Cusi Huallpa (also called Cahuide) jumped from the highest point to avoid being taken prisoner by the Spanish during the Inca resistance of 1536.
The remains of this tower are located to the east of the archaeological site. According to the chroniclers, they served to store water. It is currently covered in dirt and is likely to have a square shape.
The remains of this tower are located in the center of Sacsayhuaman. It was intercommunicated with the other towers through tunnels. At present, only the foundations of the towers remain, since they were destroyed by the Spanish during the colony.
Group of Enclosures
They are rooms leaning on the hill a short distance from the towers. They are directed towards the Plaza de Armas in the city of Cusco. They are connected to each other by trapezoidal doors.
The Walls (The Baluartes)
This area is made up of serrated (zigzag) platforms whose huge limestone walls fit perfectly together.
Historians claim that the first Spaniards who saw these walls attributed their construction to demons. Even today, its elaboration remains a mystery.
The first floor of the bastions has the largest walls. The largest weighs up to 128 tons. Due to this and many formidable constructions, Sacsayhuaman has earned the title of one of the most mysterious places on the planet.
They are found in the middle and central part of the bastions. They have a trapezoidal shape and served as the entrance to the tower area. Each gate has its own name: Ajawanapunku, T’iopunku and Wiracochapunku.
The rodaderos are a natural formation of diorite of volcanic origin. Over the years, it was molded into an arched shape as a slide (toboggan).
The throne of the Inca
The Inca throne or K’usilluc Jink’ian (Where the monkey stands) is a stone structure in the form of a seat or bench. They were symmetrically polished to such perfection that the ‘Throne’ dimension was gained.
The ‘chincanas’ are tunnels or underground caves in Sacsayhuaman. There are two of them, the smallest is around 15 meters and has become a distraction for travelers. The big one is to the north of the complex.
How to get to Saqsayhuaman?
To get to Saqsayhuaman you can take any Cusco City Tour (Pull) from any Cusco travel agency (almost all of them offer this type of service); from the Plaza de Armas to the Ruins of Saqsayhuaman, it will take you only 15 minutes by bus, You can also walk to Sacsayhuaman, going up Calle de Resbalosa, turn right after the church of San Cristóbal and follow the curve in road. Here, you will join the ancient Inca route between Cusco and Sacsayhuaman in the upper left. The climb is steep and it takes approximately 30 minutes from the Plaza de Armas to the ruins, it can also be reached by private transport or by taxi, since it is not far from the city or you can simply see the ruins from the Cristo Blanco de take taking the Tram Service.
Get to Sacsayhuaman with our Cusco Peru vacation packages.
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Sacsayhuaman Entrance Ticket
There is no specific Ticket for Sacsayhuaman. Ticket for Sacsayhuaman is included in the Cusco Tourist Ticket. This ticket also allows entry to other archaeological sites such as Qenqo, Tambomachay, Puca Pucara and Coricancha. The price of the Partial Ticket is 70 soles.
To visit Sacsayhuaman you need the Cusco Tourist Ticket. Another option is to hire the service of a ‘City Tour’.